Steven Mnuchin: 5 Things to Know About ‘Suicide Squad’ Producer and Future Treasury Secretary

He’s snagged Bernie Madoff money, backed Hillary Clinton and tangled with Donald Trump — before becoming the president-elect’s chief fund-raiser

Steven Mnuchin, Donald Trump's New Fundraiser, Snagged Madoff Money, Evicted the Poor, Backed Hillary Clinton
Graphic: Pixel Pusher

Steven Mnuchin, an investment banker-turned-Hollywood producer whose credits include “Suicide Squad,” is poised to be named U.S. Treasury Secretary under President Donald Trump, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

Mnuchin emerged this year as Trump’s fundraiser-in-chief, a surprising turn to many who know his past includes pocketing money stolen by Bernie Madoff and prominently backing Hillary Clinton.

He also, according to his critics, helped bankrupt Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity Media, the studio responsible for “The Fighter,” among other films. And he hasn’t always gotten along with Trump himself. (Mnuchin has not responded to requests for comment.)

Trump has described Mnuchin as “a professional at the highest level with an extensive and very successful financial background.” Here are five things you may not know about Mnuchin:

1. Trump and Mnuchin have had a tumultuous past
Mnuchin worked at Goldman Sachs for 17 years, leaving in late 2002 at age 39 with a reported $46 million stake in the bank, according to the Wall Street Journal. He then accepted a job with business magnet George Soros, one of Hillary Clinton’s biggest donors. He is currently the chairman and CEO of Dune Capital Management, a private investment firm.

According to The New York Times, “Mr. Trump has attacked both Mr. Mnuchin’s investment company — suing it in 2008 over a building deal — as well as Goldman Sachs, the Democratic Party and other institutions Mr. Mnuchin has supported.” So he’s an obvious choice to be Trump’s financial point man.

2. Relativity Media doesn’t like his bank very much
In October 2014, Relativity Media announced that Mnuchin would be joining founder Ryan Kavanaugh as co-chairman of the company’s board. But according to the New York Post, “The once-cozy relationship between Relativity Media and backer OneWest Bank… turned hostile after the California lender swept up nearly $50 million from the studio leading up to its bankruptcy — and then hit up the studio’s international distributors for even more money.”

The Post cited a letter and an email obtained by the paper that said Relativity explicitly blamed the bank, founded by Mnuchin, “for violating bankruptcy procedures and for delaying the release of a movie recently considered to be the studio’s savior.”

In 2013, Mnuchin’s newly formed partnership with filmmaker Brett Ratner and Australian billionaire James Packer, RatPac-Dune Entertainment (the three better known as the “RatPac”), closed a massive financing arrangement with Warner Bros. to fund its movies, which included “American Sniper” and “Mad Max: Fury Road.” It is perhaps those valuable Mnuchin contacts that Trump is most interested in as he seeks to hit up Hollywood for donations.

3. But Mnuchin used to like Hillary Clinton well enough
According to Politico, Mnuchin contributed more than $120,000 to both Democrats and Republicans over the years, of which $64,000 went to Democratic candidates and $40,000 to Republicans. He donated $7,000 to Clinton’s New York Senate bids. Of course, Trump also supported Democrats before going into politics, giving at least $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation, $5,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and $20,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the 2006 cycle, “effectively buying the election prospects of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, respectively,” according to a report by Politico.

4. That time he was accused of throwing old people and minorities out on the street
In December 2008, Mnuchin took advantage of the economic crisis by buying out IndyMac Bank, a collapsed Pasadena lender. He and a group of investors got it for pennies on the dollar, changed its name to OneWest, and went on to rake in billions of dollars by foreclosing on homes, The New Republic said.

Under Mnuchin’s leadership, OneWest “routinely jumped to foreclosure rather than pursue options to keep borrowers in their homes; used fabricated and ‘robo-signed’ documents to secure the evictions; and had a particular talent for dispossessing the homes of senior citizens and people of color,” the New Republic contended. Maps obtained by the magazine showed that of the 36,382 OneWest California foreclosures between 2009 and 2015, 68 percent occurred in zip codes with a majority non-white population.

The New Republic said that as part of a standard deal it made on transactions for failed banks during the financial crisis, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation agreed to cover all losses above the first 20 percent on loan defaults. That essentially lowered the foreclosure risk, and OneWest, protected by the government and taxpayer dollars, went on to rake in $3 billion in profits from 2009 to 2014. Not bad if you consider the initial investment: $1.65 billion. Meanwhile, the FDIC wound up losing $13 billion on the IndyMac deal, on top of the $2.4 billion it owed OneWest for its foreclosure costs, the New Republic said.

It all would have gone great for Mnuchin if it weren’t for the Occupy movement in Los Angeles. After it learned of the foreclosures, activists hit Mnuchin’s $26 million Bel Air estate to protest the eviction of a woman forced from her home for being two weeks late on one mortgage payment. The activists threatened to move the evicted resident’s furniture into Mnuchin’s mansion. Eventually 20 police officers and a helicopter were called in to restore order.

5. Making off with Madoff millions
Mnuchin grew up in one of the wealthiest families in New York City. His father, Robert Mnuchin, worked for Goldman Sachs for 30 years before opening a posh art gallery that sold Kandinskys and de Koonings. But that didn’t stop his son from pocketing $3.2 million from Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme victims.

According to Bloomberg, Mnuchin Jr. withdrew the cash from his mother’s account right before the scheme blew up. It was money that was essentially stolen from Madoff’s investors, who lost everything. Madoff’s victims sued Mnuchin in an attempt to recoup some of their savings, but the suit was dropped because of time restrictions. 

“This was one of hundreds of cases that there was a decision on,” Mnuchin told Bloomberg. “There is nothing special about this case.”